ePub 版

views of moderation which his own policy would have dictated, could have retarded the occurrence of such an event. As it was, the administration of Government fluctuating continually, was consistent in nothing but the insatiable appetite for wealth, which the succession of adventurers kept alive, and which was continually glutted, only to be renewed. No remedy now remained, but to substitute in the Government the power by which the native authority had been supplanted, and the Company thus became the rulers of one of the richest provinces in the East.

From the time that this change in their situation was effected, their Government has been gradually improving, rather from the unavoidable interest in doing that well, which people are obliged to do themselves; that sort of adaptation which time and experience produce among the parts of a system, and from the liberality of views and good judgment of its servants in the several departments of its affairs, than from any principle of amelioration embodied in its constitution. During these occurrences, the Mogul Government had been in one of those states of depression, to which all despotisms are subject, when enfeebled by calamity: they became the prey of dissension among their own constituent parts. The English were thus allowed to contend single-handed with the local authority of Bengal, and an opportunity afforded to the rise of a power that was to extinguish the empire for ever.

The same principles which had hitherto embroiled the settlement of Calcutta with the Soubahs of Moorshedabad, were now to operate on a more extensive scale, and to produce a state of things between the English Government of Bengal and the native states, very similar to that which had been exhibited in a narrower sphere. The extraneous authority established in the country, connecting itself with the unknown and incalculable power from abroad, by which it was supported, early attracted the jealousy of those states which arose along with it out of the ruins of the Mogul Empire, and rendered us the centre on which the whole policy of the Peninsula hinged. The views of no party seem to have been for a time, however, methodised into any system,-but a variety of petty expedients manifested sufficiently the vague, though prevailing idea, that was uppermost in the public councils. The first person after Lord Clive, who formed any large or comprehensive notion of our situation, was Mr. Hastings. At first his object seems to have been to play off one native state against another, availing himself of their jealousies and blind individual ambition, and endeavoring to maintain such an equipoise as would leave the arbitration of affairs always in his hands; but his sagacious mind had ultimately seen that a permanent and positive power of regulation could alone lead to that state of security and tranquillity which the precarious Pam. NO. LI.



influence which all his great ability was scarce able to maintain, could never secure or perpetuate; and to his comparatively early perception of this truth is perhaps to be ascribed some of the measures of his government which, taken apart without reference to the end which they were to produce, or the evils that end was to remedy, seem to savour of wanton violence and injustice.

The sound good sense, moderation, and manly firmness of character of Lord Cornwallis were admirably calculated for the consolidation of our power, and to have arrested the progress of aggrandisement, had it been possible to arrest it. He succeeded to the government at a time so far removed from the causes which gave the first impulse to our policy, and so far distant from the point to which it was verging, as to render the symptoms of the current, by which we were carried along, less sensible than at almost any other period of our history. The cast of his mind, besides, disqualified him for the detection of those latent and general principles by which the course of events were swayed; but his perception of the immediate bearings of his situation was perspicuous and distinct. The great genius of Mr. Hastings had, in some measure, disentangled the web of Indian politics, and reduced our foreign relations to so definite a form, that they almost seemed susceptible of stability on a principle like the balance of power, and to some such condition of things the aim of Lord Cornwallis's government certainly tended. But such a state of repose as a balance of power is capable of affording as a principle of international policy, evidently implies its general recognition as a motive of common action, and a certain degree of enlightened address in adapting the measures of states to the conditions it implies; both of which were most miserably wanting among the rulers with whom he had to deal. In the constitution of government which he was sent out to administer, the legislature of this country had imposed all the restraints that could be applied to our entering into further hostilities; but, in spite of this, and with all the prudence of which he was master, he was forced into war; and his administration terminated, like that of his predecessors, in a further reduction of the native States, and a large accession of territory.

The Government of his successor seemed almost expressly intended to exemplify the impossibility of abandoning the power of control which we had been compelled to assume and to assert whenever disputed, without incurring the most imminent risk of our existence as a state. The boundless resources of the soil recruited, with astonishing rapidity, the losses of former wars; the power of the country was fast concentrating, by different processes of aggregation, in larger masses and in fewer hands. The jealousy

which our increasing power had inspired, had become universal. A foreign European influence had insinuated itself into the councils and armies of several of the native States, and inspired them with the vigor of European intellect, and the skill of European tactics; and even our means of dividing our enemies was diminished by the manner in which an adherence to the principle of non-interference had induced us to sacrifice the Nizam. Fortunately, an individual succeeded to the government capable of meeting and surmounting the crisis. The power of the Sultan of Mysore, the power of Scindeah, and the power of the French lurking under cover of both, and of the Nizam, arrayed at the moment against us, might have rendered it doubtful, under feebler councils, whether a French, or a Mahomedan, or a Hindoo power, was to rise on the ruins of the English influence. By his bold and decided measures, he recovered our ascendancy at the Courts of Hydrabad and Poonah,-crushed at the outset the French force in the service of the former,-overthrew the Government of the house of Hyder,-discomfited the armies of Scindeah, of Holkar, and the Rajah of Berar, and broke effectually the power of the Mahrhattas, and, finally, secured the expulsion of all foreign European adventurers from the native Courts, and established subsidiary relations, and a power of arbitrating differences, very generally among the larger principalities. No individual before him had manifested so distinctly a just understanding of the real nature of our situation, or had advanced towards the object to be obtained with such rapid and successful strides. When about to reap the further fruits of his victories, and to consolidate and mature the system he had extended so far, he was arrested in his career, by the apprehensions of those who could see nothing in his measures but an idle or unprincipled ambition, and a fruitless expenditure of the Company's treasure. By the change of councils which supervened, the strong boundary which he had provided on the left bank of the Jumna was abandoned, some of the minor arrangements of the system he had so far advanced altered and dislocated, and the invaluable opportunity thrown away of pursuing by negociation, under the influence of our recent successes, the more extensive developement of the only basis on which any permanent repose could be secured to the Peninsula.

Lord Cornwallis returned to the country in the feebleness of his age,withimpressions of the scene on which he had acted himself, much stronger than those which a short residence could produce, of that by which he was surrounded, with the caution of advanced life, added to his natural prudence; and, still looking more to policy than power as a principle of pacification, he had nearly produced a revulsion in the system, by relinquishing the strong ground his predecessor had assumed, and attempting to disarm the well

founded apprehensions of the native States by vain assurances of our moderation.

The government which Sir George Barlow held ad interim, and that of Lord Minto, interfered but little with the internal state of the country. The reduction of the foreign European settlements gave occupation to the Company's armies, during the administration of the latter; and a considerable time of repose was thus afforded to the action of those causes which had operated so often, and which the English power was not yet sufficiently systematized to prevent from fermenting into violence.

They assumed, indeed, a less obvious and ostensible, but not on that account a less dangerous form, than heretofore. It had been very clearly foreseen by Lord Lake, during the discussions which arose after Lord Wellesley's departure, about the countries to the south-westward of Delhi, that if the minor states were left so unprotected as to render them a prey to the bands of adventurers, of whom the native armies had been composed, "the habits of this tribe of men would be perpetuated, and hordes of plunderers would be formed, ready to join the first bold adventurer who offered to lead them into the neighboring and fertile provinces of the Company." The prediction was most exactly fulfilled; an immense predatory force of cavalry grew up on the banks of the Nerbuddah, and carried their incursions in all directions for many hundred miles, producing a state of universal insecurity, and precluding the possibility of all improvement. It served as a focus to the desperate characters of the whole Peninsula ;-its numbers were limited but by the extent to which they could be maintained, -it counted among its chiefs some natives of uncommon abilities; and it possessed a sort of equivocal connexion with the governments of the surrounding states, which would inevitably combine them in the cause the moment an opportunity occurred of acting against us with advantage.

The British Government now experienced, as the Factory of Calcutta had done towards the close of their struggle with the Soubahs of Bengal, the evils of a nominal independence in states which we had been compelled to enfeeble beyond the power of maintaining the rights, or performing the duties of independence. To purchase an exemption for their own territories from pillage, the neighboring states of Holkar and Scindeah had, perhaps not unwillingly, lent the countenance of their governments, (which they certainly could not have safely withheld,) to different bodies of these freebooters, by nominally receiving them into their service; and when pressed for redress for enormities committed on the territories of others, on the score of their responsibility for the

acts of their subjects, they urged the undeniable plea of their inability to restrain them.

On the north-eastern frontier a power had been for half a century imperceptibly growing up-important from the warlike character of the people, a space of 800 miles on which they bordered on the Company's territory, and the rapidity with which they were extending that line by their lateral conquests-the blind confidence inspired by a period of uninterrupted success in their previous wars, led them to invade the British provinces; and the large tract of open country, along which they were exposed to their incursions, rendered general hostilities unavoidable. Had the plan of operations directed by the Marquis of Hastings been carried into effect with half the ability with which it was projected, this war would have been terminated with a rapidity which would have rendered it wholly inoperative on the general aspect of affairs. The languid character, however, which it assumed for a time, the great difficulties of a mountainous warfare, and some reverses which portions of the army sustained, contributed materially to countenance the schemes which were in agitation among the native principalities, and to give a more threatening appearance to the political horizon. The intuitive rapidity with which he seized the true interests of the country, the comprehensive system in which, from the first, he proposed to embrace the relations of the Peninsula; the masterly military skill with which he circumscribed and crushed within his grasp the fugitive force with which he had to contend, while he dissipated all the combinations by which it was supported; his complete assertion of the British supremacy without the violation of public faith; and the great progress which he made towards maturing all the reciprocal interests and obligations of the different states into consistency, must place his government among the most splendid and useful administrations by which the affairs of India have ever been directed.

The sword had now done its business, and time and a steady adherence to the principles which Lord Hastings had established, alone were required to secure and continue the tranquillity of India. From the Delta of the Indus to Sirhind, the frontier is covered by a desart impassable for an army; from the mountains of Caubul to the great angle of the Burhampooter, the vast ridge of the Himmaleh extends; and from the angle of the Burhampooter a strong and difficult country of wood-land and of hills stretches to the sea, having interposed between it and the interior of our provinces the great branch both of that river and the Ganges, and all the various channels by which their waters are discharged. In all this immense frontier, extending from the Erythrean sea to the Bay of Bengal,

« 上一頁繼續 »